Bi-weekly press briefing - 22 August 2023
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Press Conferences | OHCHR , UNHCR , WFP , WMO

Bi-weekly press briefing - 22 August 2023

PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

22 August 2023

 

Amnesty violations in Afghanistan

Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that Human Rights Service of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had just published a report detailing allegations of serious human rights violations by the de facto Taliban authorities against hundreds of former government officials and former armed forces members. Those violations had been carried out despite assurances from the Taliban of a general amnesty for the same people. Between the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021 and 30 June 2023, the Human Rights Service had obtained credible reports that members of the de facto authorities had been responsible for 218 extrajudicial killings, 14 enforced disappearances, over 144 instances of torture and ill treatment, and 424 arbitrary arrests and detentions. The report detailed the violations that had occurred across all 34 provinces.

The High Commissioner urged the de facto authorities to carefully consider the findings of the report and to uphold their obligations under international human rights law by preventing further violations and holding perpetrators to account.

Full report is available here.

Replying to questions, Mr. Laurence said that the de facto authorities had repeatedly said that the amnesty would be honored. On occasion, they had investigated some human rights violations; they had responded to the report, and the response was attached to it. The de facto authorities had often responded that, in many cases, the killings would have been of personal nature rather than part of broader retribution. He stressed that the report had brought a new level of awareness.

On the question of alleged Saudi killings of migrants at the Kingdom’s borders, Mr. Laurence said that there was a need to investigate those allegations independently and transparently, and the primary obligation to do so was with the state. OHCHR also called on the authorities to allow unfettered access to the border area.

Risk of growing hunger in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Peter Musoko, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking from Kinshasa, stated that the DRC was plagued with political instability and conflict, facing devastating conditions which merited immediate attention. Some six million people were currently food insecure in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces; in the whole country over 25 million people were experiencing food insecurity. Access to health care, education, clean water, and education was also affected by the current insecurity, stressed Mr. Musoko.

Funding had almost dried up, and the WFP operational requirements were at stake. WFP had received limited funding, and in July, WFP had provided assistance to some 1.2 million people. WFP required USD 728 million for its response efforts in the eastern region, but there was a staggering funding gap of USD 567 million, equivalent to 78 percent of the required funds for the next six months.The people of eastern DRC needed world’s immediate attention and support to prevent full-scale catastrophe. Mr. Musoko implored international partners and donors to come together and help those affected by the multiple crises.

Full briefing note is available here.

Responding to questions from the media, Mr. Musoko explained that the USD 728 million was needed until January 2024. MONUSCO’s presence in the eastern part of the country was very important, said Mr. Musoko. If MONUSCO were to leave, it was difficult to envision how the situation would evolve.

Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), reminded of a recent UNHCR briefing on the mounting violence against women and girls in eastern DRC.

Six years since the Rohingya refugee influx in Bangladesh

Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that this week marked six years since over 700,000 Rohingya had fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, joining there hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya who had left the country earlier. UNHCR was urging the international community to sustain both financial support and political support to find a long-term solution. A steep decline of funds was forcing humanitarian actors on the ground to scale down the support they could provide. Until they could return, the refugees found themselves in the congested camps in the Bay of Bengal, which was exposed to extreme weather elements. The current humanitarian response plan was less than 29 percent funded, said Ms. Mantoo.

UNHCR’s briefing note is available here.

Answering questions, Ms. Mantoo said that the rise of hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation could have serious humanitarian consequences. UNHCR was engaging with social media platforms, she said. A whole-of-society approach ought to be taken, including social media companies, as everyone had responsibility to do no harm. UNHCR’s position was that conditions had to be conducive for any refugee returns to Myanmar. Daniel Johnson, for the UN Information Service, reminded of the recent Secretary-General’s policy brief on integrity on digital platforms.

Update on extreme weather

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the heatwave gripping large parts of Europe was continuing. Large parts of Switzerland were on level three amber alert or the top-level red alert. Switzerland also had a new altitude record for the freezing point, which now reached 5,298 meters. The disappearance of snow had already been drastic the previous year and was likely to continue. Temperatures in France could reach over 40 degrees, and large parts of the country were now on amber alert. It was the high overnight temperatures which had a particular impact on human health. On the other hand, Norway had issued alerts for a particularly heavy rainfall.

Tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic was ramping up, said Ms. Nullis. Three tropical system – Gert, Franklin, and Harold – were of particular concern right now. Franklin was bringing risks of flooding to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Harold was predicted to make landfall in southern Texas, bringing very heavy rainfall and the risk of flash-flooding at a time when the state was battling extreme heat and drought. Ms. Nullis said that the hurricane Hilary had now dissipated, but had reached parts of southern California, which rarely witnessed such occurrences. Virtually all rain records in Los Angeles had been broken; Death Valley had seen its all-time wettest day on record.

The Greater Horn of Africa Weather Forum was meeting today and would be issuing its update for the rest of the year later in the day.

Responding to questions, Ms. Nullis said that the impact of extreme temperatures on glaciers was still being studied. Snow cover was now present only on the highest elevations in Switzerland. In Switzerland and France, amber and red alerts were in power until 24 August. At this stage, the WMO did not have definite statistics on the numbers of deaths of people due to extreme temperatures; national authorities would compile and share such information in due course. She said that heatwave was broadly defined as a period of statistically unusual hot weather persisting for a number of days and nights. The currently used baseline was 1991-2020. There had been discussions on naming heatwaves, but WMO currently had no plans to do so as it might detract from public safety messaging. Ms. Nullis said that, while the meteorological summer was coming to an end in northern hemisphere, it was difficult to state with certainty that heatwaves were over.

Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that research on summer 2022 showed that over 61,000 people had died from heat-related causes in 35 European countries in summer 2022.

Announcements

Daniel Johnson, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that on 23 August at 4pm Geneva time, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, would brief the Security Council. The briefing would be open, and his remarks would be distributed afterwards.

Mr. Johnson informed that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was concluding this morning the review of the report of Turkmenistan.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would begin this afternoon the review of the report of Austria.

The Conference on Disarmament was having this morning a public plenary meeting, the first one under the presidency of Hungary.


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